A lot of attention has been paid lately to the benefits of autonomous vehicles, but is it much ado about nothing? After all, while autonomous vehicles might make transport more efficient, a vehicle with no driver might be less safe than traditional vehicles as there is no one to control the vehicle when the unexpected occurs.
As many of readers may know, there is a dedicated program under the Virginia Department of Transportation that guides the government on the use of fully automated semi-trucks. That said, as it is a fairly new technology, many people have apprehensions, mostly based on some genuine concerns.
Dangers that might be missed by fully automated trucks
It can be argued that fully autonomous vehicles might miss hazards on the road, leading to a car crash. Human drivers know how to expect the unexpected. They know that distracted drivers, poorly maintained roads and disabled vehicles can be hazards that an autonomous vehicle might miss. An autonomous vehicle that does not recognize a hazard on the road can cause a car crash that a human driver might have prevented.
Fully automated trucks that encounter dangers can cause significant crashes
Autonomous semi-trucks present a significant danger, due simply to the size and weight of the vehicle. Any semi-truck can weigh tens of thousands of pounds, making it the winner in a car crash with a smaller vehicle, due to the simple physics of weight distribution.
An experienced trucker can handle the weight and size of a fully loaded semi-truck. They are trained in maneuvering these vehicles safely, and in fact require a special driver’s license to do so.
Autonomous features in semi-trucks might make transporting goods more efficient and can reduce the costs associated with employing a human driver. Still, fully autonomous semi-trucks may not be able to fully replace the thought process of a human driver. While it remains to be seen how autonomous technology will progress, as of now a human driver might keep our roads safer for all.